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The Istanbul Canal and its impacts on the city

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Author: Mustafa Cenk Civelek

Nowadays  the people of Istanbul and rest of Turkey are too busy with the issue of Istanbul Canal.The canal is assumed as a second route to interconnect the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea .The authorities of the state were willing to realize this insane project during the republic and empire. However the government determined it as a serious project in 2011 and in July 2021 the excavation phase of the canal is going to start. It assumed as an alternative of the Bosphorus Strait ,which is the host of forty-eight thousand military and cargo ships annualy, to protect historical and natural heritage of city which is located near the strait. They are aiming to prevent collosion and explosion risks like  the Explosion of Beirut ,in 2020. Morever it is planned to reduce marine traffic and waiting time of the ships on the seas of Istanbul. Currently the waiting time for a ship is approximately 14 hours. Additionally Turkey cannot gain any money from the strait because of the Montreux Convention (1936) and also they are scoping have an addtional income which is 8 billion USD per year. In addition there will be a city near the Istanbul Canal like a commercial  and logistical center of Istanbul, with approximately five hundred thousand population. The ports and marinas will locate at this city.

(Photo 1 –  A Cargo ship is passing through the Bosphorus Strait/ Source – 21th Century Turkey Institute)

This mega Project has numerous effects on the enviroment. The size of the canal is 360 meters width and 21 meters deepth with a 45 kilometers longitud which is crossing the Çatalca Peninsula directly .It means avaragely 340.200.000 mexcavation and same amount of filling materials. It is a huge responsibility and problem to find a place to transfer these materials and maintain it ecofriendly. Because it is pointing approximately 18.000.000 headway in one way with the normal size trucks. It is also pointing a huge CO2 emision and a serious problem for the flora and fauna of the current and destination points of the loads. What’s more it can damage some archaeological and historical underground ruins. For instance under the central railway station of the city (Haydarpaşa Railway Station), founded some ruins from the Roman Empire. It is extremely possible to find such historical heritages in cities like Istanbul. In addition it is another important problem extreme transfer of the  dangerous organic substance from the  Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. Currently the Black Sea is one of the most polluted seas of the Europe because of the rivers Danube, Dniester and Dnieper which are transfering industrial waste product of the continent to the sea. This flow can destroy or reduce the biodiversity on the surface and ground of the Marmara Sea. Therefore it can cause smell of decay around the city and this case can reduce air quality directly. Recently Istanbul is suffering from the sea snot (marine mucilage) problem in the coasts of the city especailly in the Marmara Sea. Consequently an additional problem about marine life may be annoying for the life quality of the people who are living in this city.  

(Photo 2 – The route of the Istanbul Canal/ Source – NATO Defense College Foundation)

Over and above the Istanbul Canal project has an important effect on the water supply and the water sources of the city. The route of the canal is passing through the Lake Küçükçekmece and destroying this natural lagoon totaly. Also the route of the canal passing through the Reservoir of Sazlıdere which is an important water source of Istanbul. It is supplying the water of the 13 districts of the city. The canal does not destroy the reservoir totally but in the near future because of the salty water transfer the Reservoir of Sazlıdere will be completely useless. Furthermore the Project will overthrow the underground water sources and aquifers and contaminate them. Before the canal reaches the Black Sea it will also contact with the Terkos Lake ,which is another considerable water source of the city, and damages this lake and the graoundwaters near it. In the last decade, Istanbul faced with water shortages a couple of times especially in the summers. It is a significant problem with the rapidly growing population of Istanbul. In the future it may be a permanent problem for the resident of the city.

As a result the project of Istanbul Canal damages and destroys the agricultural lands, forests, pastures, water sources and biodiversity on the sea and land. Therefore it can cause a natural disaster for Istanbul. Besides it is possible to solve the current problems of the city in seven years with the huge budget of the Project which is 15 billion USD. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the project is released in the starting of this year. However people still have some problem about the necessity of the canal. According to the polls 80% of the population of Istanbul oppesed to the project and the citizens are organizing actions against it with the global organizations like Greenpeace and World Wide Fund, and individually.

Mustafa Cenk Civelek

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